Texas Housers co-director on Capitol Hill

Chrishelle Palay, Texas Housers Houston co-director, was a panelist in a Washington Capitol Hill briefing on Hurricane Harvey recovery issues. Chrishelle told lawmakers and their aides:

  • Congress should direct FEMA to immediately enter into an agreement with HUD to replace the motel voucher program with Disaster Housing Assistance program (DHAP).
    • Many Hurricane Harvey survivors have been displaced at least temporarily from their homes with no indication when their homes can be repaired or replaced.
    • The existing FEMA motel voucher program provides short-term, crowded housing that is subject to ending every two weeks. This puts families in a precarious situation.
    • DHAP worked in pervious disasters better that a motel voucher program. DHAP provides stability and better housing for survivors.
  • Congress prevent HUD waiving the low- and moderate income targeting of CDBG-DR funds
    • Some Texas members of Congress have requested a waiver for this provision of the Housing and Community Development Act, suggesting that the threshold for families to be assisted with CDBG-DR be lowered to 50%.
    • There has been an unfortunate past record of low- and moderate-income families not receiving needed assistance to rebuild. Many low- and moderate-income survivors lack the funds or insurance proceeds to rebuild and recover with CDBG-DR. This is why the threshold exists – to help those who have little or no recourse.
    • FEMA damage assessments are not completed now. The appropriate time for waivers is once the number and amount of assistance needed by disaster survivors at different income levels is known.
  • Program transparency: Objective needs data, not political decisions should determine how disaster recovery funds are spent.
    • Congress should require that FEMA and HUD make all information about disaster needs and the state’s recovery process available to the public to understand and comment on.
    • The public needs to be able know who has an unmet needs and how public spending is addressing those needs before HUD approves the state’s Action Plan for spending.
  • Equitable flood control infrastructure must be built in low-income neighborhoods
    • Low-income neighborhoods have never had adequate flood control infrastructure. In Houston for instance, more than 80% of open ditch drainage is in communities of color. Of those open ditches, more than 40% do not stop flooding during even modest rainfall.
    • Federal funds should address these existing inequities to provide equal storm water protection to low-income communities of color.